Leaving employees to manage their own password security is a mistake

Despite the clear and present danger that weak passwords pose to organizations, many remain focused on implementing technology based on policy, not the user, to address the problem.

manage password security

How do you manage password security?

More than half of IT executives surveyed rely on employees alone to monitor their own password behavior, subsequently leaving the company at risk, shining a light on the disconnect between IT policy and human behavior.

The report, for which Ovum surveyed hundreds of IT executives and corporate employees globally, found that 78 percent of IT executives lack the ability to control access to the cloud-based applications used by their employees. Most companies are aware of this lack of visibility and control, yet the majority are not doing enough, if anything at all, to address the situation.

The study also revealed that 76 percent of employees say they experience regular password usage problems and more than a third of users need password-related help desk support at least once every month. At the same time, nearly three-quarters said they would want to use a tool to help store and access passwords without needing to remember each one if their company offered a solution.

Organizations are leaving holes in their security

A lack of control puts excessive reliance on end users. 61 percent of IT executives surveyed rely exclusively on employee education to enforce strong passwords. Employees are essentially on their own, with no technology in place to enforce any password strength requirement.

Outdated manual processes still prevail. IT executives at four in ten companies surveyed still rely on entirely manual processes to manage user passwords for cloud applications.

Defense against password sharing is far too weak. When asked how they guard against unnecessary password sharing, 64 percent of IT execs surveyed had no technology in place, and only 14 percent had automated control facilities in place to know when it is happening.

Weak password systems put users and businesses at risk. More than three-quarters of employees reported that they regularly have problems with password usage or management. Password usage problems are exacerbated by the lack of single sign-on (SSO) in many organizations. In fact, 56 percent of the organizations surveyed did not have SSO available.

manage password security

Close the password security gap

“This research has clearly identified an urgent need to close the password security gap,” said Andrew Kellett, Principal Analyst, Infrastructure Solutions at Ovum. “Far too many organizations are leaving the responsibility for password management to their employees and don’t have the automated password management technology in place to identify when things are going wrong.”

“In many cases, an organization’s password management practices are overly reliant on manual processes and far too often place an excessive level of trust in employees to use safe password practices,” said Matt Kaplan, GM of LastPass. “The threat posed by human behavior coupled with the absence of technology to underpin policy is leaving companies unnecessarily at risk from weak or shared passwords. Organizations need to focus on solving for both obstacles in order to significantly improve their overall security.”